Provision #840: Released for Life

LifeTrek Provision

Since November 25 of last year, 2012, I have been writing a series of Provisions growing out of my experience with epilepsy. The series started with a with a play on words for it’s title: Seized by Life. The reason that represents a play on words is because seizures are not often thought of as life-giving things. I know I don’t think of them that way, I know I don’t like them, and I know I don’t want them to keep happening, yet I continue to have them to this very day.

As with all things in life, however, there are treasures to be found here, treasures that are waiting to be appreciated for not only their learning value but also for what they represent in and of themselves. I invite you to see things that way, including the challenges of your own life, with the help of this poem which brings to a close my wrestling with the beast of limbic encephalitis. This poem actually modifies the poem that launched this series, Seized by Life. Next week we move on to a new topic: mindfulness. In the meantime, be grateful, thoughtful, and blessed.

Released for Life 
Celebrating Wholeness One Day at a Time

©2013 Bob Tschannen-Moran

There is a certain freedom in life
that we all too often fail
to recognize.

We go through our days
with routines of meaningfulness and patterns
that hide the true
possibility of it all.

Until something grabs us and
shakes us and
wakes us up with a jolt;
that brings us close to the magic of life itself.

That’s when we find ourselves
released for life.

That’s when we stomp our dancing feet
to the beat of music;
as if to say, “It’s time to love, and to laugh,
and to celebrate what life has to share
with us all.”

There’s no way to find just the right words
to describe who we are.
There no way to feel just the right rhythm
to be who we are becoming:

The full flowering of a random seed
planted in a womb of wonder,
filled with grace and pleasure.

Giving life one more chance
to be all that it might be.

Crying out one more time
with the startled voice of awakening.

Leaping boldly from a moving car
to catch the beckoning rays of a sunset.

Resting comfortably in
the warm and tender arms of it All.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I’m travelling over the holidays, so I will post the reader replies from this week and last week in next week’s Provision – so keep sending them along. It provides me a lot of joy to know that my reflections on the meaning and measure of life move people forward on the trek of life. 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #839: Music Mends the Mind

Laser Provision

In March of this year, 2013, I wrote a Provision titled Music Matters. It’s a great Provision and I encourage you to click through to read it for the first time, if you did not read it then, or to read it again, if you want to refresh your memory. Today I am sending out a fun link to a surprise concert at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel. Apparently I’m not the only one who recognizes and celebrates the healing power of music. You’ll have some fun with this one, so read on and click through to watch the video. You’ll be glad you did.

LifeTrek Provision

Over the next two weeks I intend to wrap up the series of Provisions that have grown out of my healing process over the past 15 months. That’s a long time to spend on any one topic and it feels right to move on to a new focus and orientation. That’s as true for the writing of Provisions as it is for the healing of my brain. My orientation and energy, at this point in time, can be summarized with five words and an exclamation point: “Let’s be done with this!” It’s even possible to do it in two words: “Enough already!” You get the idea.

If you have stayed with me through this whole ordeal then you know that it all started at the end of August, 2012, with the first of what became an uncountable number of seizures. They got so intense that I had to be put into a medically-induced coma for three weeks to calm down the firestorm in my brain. After being woken up and going through several months of rehabilitation, I began writing Provisions again at the end of November. Since that time I have used my weekly reflections to document my experience and to sort out my thoughts as to what has been going on. It has definitely been a crazy, crazy time.

For all its craziness, however, it’s also been a time of deepening and of healing. I am not the same person today that I was 15 months ago, and there are both good and bad elements to that. My memory deficits, for example, are pretty profound.  But so is my empathy quotient, and I value that part of the equation. Seven months into the process, in my Provision titled Music Matters, I described listening to music as a form of “mental massage”. I still love that metaphor and I appreciate the things that music has done for the healing of my mind. It really has been an integral part of the healing process, both in terms of mood and in terms of memory.

Apparently I am not alone when it comes to appreciating the power of music in medicine. It’s hard to imagine a more fun example of that power than the Tchaikovsky Flash Waltz at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem as produced by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Wow! I love the looks on the faces in that SafeShare.TV video, as the musicians and dancer just seem to come out of nowhere, in a totally unexpected time and place. Be sure to click on the link when you will not be interrupted for 5 minutes and 34 seconds, with your speakers or headsets turned on, so that you can hear the music and watch the faces of those who are passing by in the hospital entryway.

One doesn’t expect to find such artistry in a hospital entryway, let alone such artistry assembled in such a seemingly random fashion. That’s exactly what makes it so much fun. I’ve watched the video multiple times and have added it to my favorites. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, I click on the link and get a five-minute pick-me-up. Just what the doctor ordered!

Here are a few of the emotions and limbic highlights that can be seen on the faces and in the bodies of the passersby and the performers themselves, identified by how many minutes and seconds they show up as the video goes along:

  • 0:22: Double-take
  • 0:25: Surprise
  • 0:39: Wonder
  • 0:49: Delight
  • 1:11: Joy
  • 1:16: Rhythm
  • 1:27: Smiling
  • 1:33: Disbelief
  • 2:04: Laughter
  • 2:11: Spellbound
  • 2:25: Swaying
  • 2:33: Smiling
  • 2:52: Bewilderment
  • 3:47: Enjoyment
  • 4:00: Remembering
  • 4:06: Connection
  • 4:25: Dancing
  • 4:44: Dancing with Style
  • 5:00: Appreciation
  • 5:13: Acknowledgment

If those attributes won’t facilitate healing, I don’t know what will. They definitely belong in a hospital! Healing is so much more than just chemicals, therapies, and operations. Those things are important, of course, but they don’t have the power, in and of themselves, to mend the deep brokenness of those who are sick and hurt. I know. I’ve been there. And the caregivers and healers who stick out most in my mind are the ones who generated some of those same reactions in me.

Like Malcolm. It’s been many moons since I saw Malcolm, but I still remember his face, smile, humor, and caring. I also remember his haircut, perhaps because it was the same as mine: shorn close, all the way around. It’s hard to find a more low-maintenance hairstyle than that! Malcolm and I laughed together, teased each other, and had fun in a setting where I wasn’t supposed to be having fun. I was sick, after all, and in the hospital. But doom and gloom do not facilitate healing. Malcolm lifted my spirits and gave me hope.

And that, in the end, is as important to healing as all the medicine and procedures in the world. Without hope, the spirit slips away and the body soon follows. With hope, the spirit lives on to fight another day. Or, one might say, to sing another day. The power of music to mend the mind and, in turn, the body is incalculable.

So if your body, mind, or soul need a little rejuvenation, I – as well as my doctor – suggest that you add music to the equation. It’s not hard to do and you’ll be very glad you did.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you found yourself swaying, smiling, and dancing with delight? What about tapping your toes or heels to the beat? If music doesn’t do it for you, what does bring out these healing, limbic highlights? How could you enjoy more of them, more often, on the trek of life? Who could assist or coach you to make it so?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


We enjoyed your Provision from the end of November, announcing you were taking a week off. Happy you were able to do that. That’s what you need to do, but I know that you are still so happy that you are able to accomplish what you do, that it gives you a great measure of peace and joy. Getting our priorities in the right order, is very important. So happy that you are trusting in God and knowing that He is in control and loves you very much. We are so thankful to Him for bringing you closer to Him and keeping you well and on the way to complete recovery.


I know it must be hard to generate these Provisions with some measure of continuing seizure activity, but they are amazing and really helpful. Thanks!  


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #838: Suspicious Questions

Laser Provision

As you can imagine, there are rules concerning the delivery of bulk emails. LifeTrek Provisions goes out to more than 12,000 people every week, around the globe, and those rules are designed to both insure delivery and to protect people against spam. I had to laugh last week when our bulk mailing program ran a test of the email and dinged it as possible spam because it contained “suspicious questions”. Do you remember what they were? From where I sit, these questions were not only “suspicious”, they were “dangerous”. Read on if you want to learn more.

LifeTrek Provision

I hope you received last week’s Provision: Three Questions. If not, I encourage you to click through and to read it in our online archive. It is a powerful story, originally told by Leo Tolstoy and retold by Thich Nhát Hanh in his delightful book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. Since I didn’t actually write the Provision I don’t mind boasting: it is a beautiful and delightful story that everyone should read.

Before sending out Provisions to more than 12,000 people every week, around the globe, our bulk mailing program always checks the Spam score of the email using a program called Spam Assassin. The lower score the better in terms of delivery. Higher scores are more likely to be blocked by spam filters while lower scores are more likely to get through.

LifeTrek Provisions usually scores quite low, as in less than 1, but last week’s Provision scored a record-high 3. When I looked at the reasons for the high score, I burst out laughing. One of the “problems” with the email was that it contained “suspicious questions”. Do you remember those questions? Do you remember the context for those questions?

I reprinted the story, originally written by Leo Tolstoy, regarding the Emperor’s three questions. He was seeking, in some sense, the secret of life and he was told to talk with a hermit who lived high up in a mountain was said to be an enlightened man. So the Emperor trekked up the mountain and asked the holy man the following questions:

  •   What is the best time to do each thing?
  •   Who are the most important people to work with?
  •   What is the most important thing to do at all times?

Talk about “suspicious questions”! I love it. Those are the very questions that I wrestle with – or as my wife, Megan, likes to say, “rassle” with – each and every week. The essence of LifeTrek Provisions comes down to this: how do we trek through the journey of life so as imbue that trek with a full sense of energy, wonder and life.

There’s a lot more than meets the eye in that statement. First, it acknowledges that we are all on a journey. And journeys, as well all know, have a beginning and have an end. On this journey, however, on the trek of life itself, there’s no way for us to remember the beginning – our brains are not developed that way – and we usually don’t think much about the end. We know it’s out there, that everyone dies, but contemplating death sounds morbid and we don’t live as if our own life, in particular, will come to an end.

But life becomes much more interesting and precious when we bracket it consciously between birth and death. That’s when we start appreciating dynamically and exploring curiously the gift of life itself. That’s when we get to think new thoughts, dream new dreams, and meet new people. How wonderful! Especially since those three things are true regardless of economic status. Everyone has thoughts, dreams, and loved ones in their lives. Do we treasure and explore those things or do we not? If the answer is “No” then we are just going through the motions. We are traversing through the trek of life without much meaning, purpose, zest, or connection. And that’s a sad thing; which leads me to the second reason I write and send out these Provisions every week.

Notice how Tolstoy’s questions, as well as my summary restatement, imply that we have some control here, that there are things we can do to fill life with more meaning, purpose, zest, and connection. And that’s my deepest hope in writing and sending out these Provisions every week. I hope they inspire, guide, and stimulate you to live a more meaningful, purposeful, zestful, and connected life. I know, first hand, how much those dimensions mean as we traverse our way through the trek of life. I have lost those things, more than once and for extended periods of time, through my battle with this terrible brain disease that I am suffering with and from which I am recovering slowly. It’s not like me to be sick, let alone so terribly sick, and it isn’t fun to be this way at all. My condition is certainly a disease.

Think, if you will, about the root meaning of the word “disease”. “Disease” is, in fact, a “dis”-“ease” or, to put it quite literally, a lack of ease. The dictionary defines “disease” as “a disordered or incorrectly functioning part of the body, an abnormal condition, a harmful state, or a decomposition of a material under special circumstances”.

Those definitions work for me. I have had all those things going on and and there may be no worse part of your body to be diseased than your brain. For your brain to be disordered, abnormal, harmed, and decomposed is a tough way to be. I don’t recommend this and, fortunately, probably none of you will ever go through this. It’s extremely rare and it is not contagious from one person to the next. In other words, I’m as safe to be around as I ever was before (however that might have been). Now, however, I’m different.

And some people tell me that the difference has made me better: I am, apparently, less driven, doctrinaire, and distracted. And that is the third, and final, point of this Provision. To imbue the trek of life with life – to imbue it with meaning, purpose, zest, and connection – takes intentionality, effort, openness, and, to some extent, pure, dumb luck. I am real, real lucky to be alive. A lot of people have worked very hard to make it so, but the stars had to align, one might say, to make it happen. There’s no way to describe all the wonderful “coincidences” that have gotten me to where I am today, but they have happened and I am here and you are reading my reflections on what it means to be here.

That’s how intentionality, effort, and openness work. We set our mind to the task, work hard, and open ourselves to the realm of possibility. Then we sit back and hope for the best. In other words, we create the conditions for success but no one can ever guarantee success. That’s a hard truth for many people to live with or even to realize. I know I did not realize it fully before all this happened. I thought I had things under control and that I could more-or-less orchestrate the future. I don’t think that any longer.

On Friday night my wife, Megan, and I went to see a showing of Frank Capra’s famous movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, in an auditorium at the College of William & Mary. It was great to see it on the big screen. First produced in 1946, the movie is based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” which Philip Van Doren Stern wrote in 1939 and published privately in 1945. Produced and directed by Frank Capra, the movie version has become a Christmas classic. It drives home, loudly and clearly, the third point of this Provision: namely, that intentionality, effort, openness, and luck have to all conspire in order to get us through the trek of life with a positive sense of meaning, purpose, zest, and connection.

I am thankful that those four elements have conspired in my case to keep me alive and to keep me engaged with those deep questions. In some respects, the Emperor’s three questions were the same questions that George Bailey was wrestling with and that almost led him to commit suicide at the start of the movie. That’s how discouraged he had become with the way things were going. Fortunately, his guardian angel, Clarence, found a way to turn things around by helping George to focus on the one thing that matters most: love.

That’s what got George Bailey out of his funk, to change his mind, and to keep from committing suicide. Instead of trying to talk George out of his problems, Clarence appealed to George’s good-hearted nature by creating a crisis that required George to think of and to help others instead of focusing on his own problems and descending into the depths of self-pity. This shift enabled George to see all the ways in which his life was really quite wonderful. Hence the name of the movie.

If you have never seen the movie, I encourage you to do so. It will raise those same suspicious questions in your own heart and it will challenge you to find a way out:

  •  What is the best time to do each thing?
  •  Who are the most important people to work with?
  •  What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The best time is now. The most important people to work with are those around you. And the most important thing to do is to love. Those answers may sound simple, and perhaps even obvious, but they are really quite complex and profound. I encourage you to take them to heart. “Suspicious questions”? You bet! They are suspicious enough to not only flag a spam filter but to change the world. So why not start today!

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you consciously oriented your priorities around love? How different would your life look if you did? Who could assist you with the task and accompany you on the journey? What’s keeping you from starting right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I appreciate your weekly Provisions and sharing your journey of life as it is. There is always curiosity and learning, hope and optimism, appreciation and gratitude. It sends me on my way each Sunday and no doubt has brought me to where I am now in my journey. I’m also glad you picked up the children’s book version of The Three Questions. I bought it for my daughter’s birthday six years ago when she was 11. I wrote in the book to her that she already knows the answers to these questions. It’s funny how we sometimes forget the answers as we get older and need to re-connect and re-mind ourselves. Thanks again and keep sharing your story. It shows us the suffering we create when we want to be somewhere other than where we are. It helps us know that now is all there is and is all that matters and it’s all good. Warm regards.


Thanks for reminding us of this wonderful, classic story and its lessons. Best wishes for your continued healing.


The $10,000 questions! Your last Provision, The Three Questions, reminds me of something I learned from Bill Keane: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” Thank you for giving us perspective to that famous line!


First, the most important thing to do now is to wish you a Happy Birthday! I won’t get this chance for a whole year and I want you to know I am so happy you are here sharing this with us and that you have been given the gift of another birthday to share with your family and friends. I’ve never met you but you coached me to listen for the conversations that make my heart sing and this is one of them. Mindfulness has transformed my life and it was during the most challenging emotional and physical times that I learned to accept and appreciate life as it is by being present for the whole catastrophe, as Jon Kabat-Zinn tells us to do. The transformation happens when you are serving those closest to you with a loving mindful presence. Thank you for sharing this story. There is a children’s book by the same name by Jon Muth that is a beautiful adaptation: The Three Questions.


Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great day!


Thought you would enjoy this amazing Morgan Freeman painting. Here’s the URL:http://www.buzzfeed.com/kimberleydadds/amazingly-this-image-of-morgan-freeman-isnt-a-photograph.


Happy Birthday Bob! Thanks for keeping me on you mailing list of inspirational Provisions


May blessings abound for you this day as we thank God for giving you life once and then once more. It’s great that we will be able to see you in 2 months! We are your partners on the trek of life.


I’m trying to quit smoking and I’m on the 3rd chapter of the poem, by Portia Nelson called 5 short chapters. 3 questions…5 short chapters…they all help.


From all the way from the other side of the world, I’m wishing you a wonderful day.


I am SO glad you stayed alive so that we could be having these conversations. I’m looking forward to where God might have them go. Over the past few years I have learned to be comfortable in the unknown ahead. Living a “with-God life” is so exciting that I’m OK with the unknowing part 🙂


Your last Provision, The Three Questions, brought me back to reality and was wonderfully written. Thanks. 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #837: Three Questions

Laser Provision

Today’s Provision, sent out the day after my 59th birthday, reprints a beautiful story of recognition and forgiveness, originally written by Leo Tolstoy, as told by Thich Nhát Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, in his delightful book The Miracle of Mindfulness. He is famous for coining the term “engaged Buddhism”, a concept that each of us should resonate with since full engagement with life and the deeper meanings of life is a common thread that runs through the writing of Provisions. I encourage you to read the story, weep, reflect, and live accordingly.

LifeTrek Provision

To end (my reflections on the miracle of mindfulness), let me retell a short story of Tolstoy’s, the story of the Emperor’s three questions. Tolstoy did not know the emperor’s name …

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter:

• What is the best time to do each thing?
• Who are the most important people to work with?
• What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time. Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at the time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice. Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord. One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on  religion. Yet others claimed the most important thins was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given. After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, ‘ have home here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?’

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor, wanting an answer, said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally, the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on my way home.”

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning.

Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and the hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air and begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly.

The emperor was worn out from a long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking at him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.”

“But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked?

“You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way and kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so left my ambush in order to seek you out.

But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, instead you saved me life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.”

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seed in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered,” he said. “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled.

“Yesterday,” the hermit replied, “if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore, the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me.”

“Later,” the hermit continued, “when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing  his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the post important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound.”

“Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Tolstoy’s story, Thich Nhát Hanh concludes, is like a story out of scripture: it doesn’t fall short of any sacred text. We talk about social service, service to people, service to humanity, service for others who are far away, helping to bring peace to the world – but we often forget that it is the very people around us that we must live for first of all.

Coaching Inquiries: Thich Nhát Hanh also give us today’s coaching inquiries: If we cannot serve our wife or husband or child or parent – how are we going to serve society? If we cannot make your own child happy, how do we expect to be able to make anyone else happy? If all our friends in the peace movement or service communities of any kind do not love and help one another, whom can we love and help? Are we working for other humans, or are we just working for the name of an organization? Are we just working, I might add, for ourselves?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I’m so glad your health is better! Thank you for your ministry. May you continue to be blessed and be a blessing! I first started reading your thoughts in these provisions in 1987, when I was in college. No matter what you share, it is timely for me. This past month, I’ve found myself reflecting on where I am and where I am going. At 51 yrs old, it seems funny to be asking these questions. Still, I sense a need for a change and this provision is just what I needed to hear. Again thank you!


I loved your last Provision, Bottom of the Barrel. I have found that the sooner I get to feeling “thanks” for my current trial, the closer I am to completing whatever it is that I am to learn. I swear , its all about energy and yours is headed so very much in the right direction to abstain from talking about the injury all the time. It’s as if talking about it KEEPS us in that space. God Bless you and Keep you and heal you!!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!


It defies all reason that no one in your vast audience wrote back with a comment on last week’s Provision. I was once proud to be among the weekly readers of your Provisions, but now I’m not so sure I want to be associated with such a deadbeat crowd. Since I was a part of that crowd, here’s a short reply to last week’s provision: Bravo!!

You have been able to use a terrible setback to teach you things that few of us can ever appreciate, until we too stumble and fall. The way up is the way down. You are now clearly a more conscious person, one who has shed the skin of ego. You are able to live as the true self you never fully knew. Through your suffering you have emptied your yourself and made room for the divine seed within to blossom and grow. Now you are infinitely more useful to yourself and to all the people whose lives you touch. Shame on all of us LifeTrek readers for our silence after you shared your last, profound insight. May that insight continue to shape your life in all the positive ways that are bursting forth day by day. I can’t wait to hear what you learn next!


I love the song, Back on Top, highlighted in your last Provision. Not only do I think of you and what an inspiration you are, but that song seems particularly pertinent to Creigh Deeds at this time because of the tragic loss of his son and healing from his own wounds. As he says, “I keep crying….” But he has also said that he is determined to help fix what’s wrong with the mental health system in Virginia so what happened to his family will not happen to other families. His life has been forever changed, but I’m sure he will be “Back on Top.” Thanks for sharing this, Bob. Praying for good health for you! I miss seeing you!


I was an Emergency Services clinician with District 19 CSB in Petersburg for 2 years (1995-97), and I am a Creigh Deeds fan, so the story you shared has special meaning to me. At District 19, ES clinicians covered 4 cities and 5 counties. It was one of the largest territories to cover in VA (though not the most rural) so it took us a long time to travel to some assessment locations (jails, hospitals, police stations, etc.). I am way too familiar with the “bed space” issue, as well as many other issues in Virginia’s mental health system that are coming out in the news again because of what happened to Creigh Deed’s family. It’s so sad that we don’t take good-enough care of our most vulnerable citizens and their families.


I’m not kidding when I tell you this: I have a strong sense that your memory just might be rebooting. Keep telling the story of your healing and how you took a couple of steps back and then CATAPULTED forward. Have faith my friend. You’re healing. Smiles.


So glad you’re writing Provisions again. Hope it’s helping with the healing process.


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #836: Bottom of the Barrel

Laser Provision

Today’s Provision continues last week’s theme, What’s Your Struggle?, by bringing in the lyrics to Amos Lee’s song, Bottom of the Barrel, the link to a live performance of the song at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, as well as the commencement address of Edwin Bridges to the Stanford University School of Education in August 2012. In other words, today’s Provision includes the words of others than of me. But these words speak to the theme and to me deeply; I hope they will speak that way to you as well. Enjoy. Appreciate. Learn. Grow.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week’s Provision, What’s Your Struggle?, had a simple message: everyone has struggles on the trek of life so hang in there and learn from them, when they come, in order to become a wiser and more compassionate person in the world. The greater the struggle the harder it is to do that; but greater is the learning opportunity as well. So set your sights and stay on course to the best of your ability and with the help of your family and friends. That, simply put, was the point of the Provision.

We’re going to explore that theme a little more today with the help of Amos Lee and Edwin Bridges. Amos Lee, if you don’t know, is an American singer-songwriter whose musical styles encompasses folk, rock, and soul. One of his songs has meant a lot to me through my own recovery process. It’s called “Bottom Of The Barrel” and I encourage you to click through to watch him perform it live at the 2011 Bonnaroo Music Festival. It really is a great piece of work. Here are the lyrics:

I keep on livin’,
to keep from cryin’.
I keep on dreamin’,
to keep from dyin’.
I keep on tryin’,
I ain’t gonna stop.

Get right down to the bottom of the barrel and float back on top.

We all know someone,
who’s always hurtin’,
The sun is shinin’,
they draw the curtain.
One thing for certain,
the pain ain’t gonna stop.

You get right down to the bottom of the barrel and then you float back on top.

Cuz I know the grass,
is always greener in someone else’s yard.
And the world is so much meaner,
when your heart is hard.

I go out walkin’,
in any season.
It could be rainin’,
it could be freezin’.
I don’t need no reason,
it’s just so pleasin’.
I can’t stop.

You get right down to the bottom of the barrel and then you float back on top.
You get right down to the bottom of the barrel and then you float back on top.

Those lyrics really speak to me. You don’t get much closer to the bottom of the barrel than I got through this whole health crisis;  but I’ve kept on living, dreaming, and trying to keep from giving up and dying. I encourage you to do the same through your own struggles, and I know you have them. Everyone is  engaged in some form of adversity. That perspective gives us the determination keep on hanging on as well as the perspective to be patient and kind with those who are struggling to find that determination for themselves. It’s not automatic and it’s not easy – but it is always possible.

This perspective is illustrated by a lovely story that was included in the commencement address given to the Stanford University school of Education a little more than 2 months before I had that first, fateful seizure in August of 2012. It was delivered by Edwin M. Bridges, who joined the Stanford faculty in 1974 and retired in 1999, and he delivered the address on June 17, 2012. I encourage you to read it through to think about how it may speak to your own life direction, priorities, and work. The bottom line: don’t forget to put first things first.

It is an honor and a privilege to be your commencement speaker. After accepting the invitation from Dean Steele, I consulted my oldest and one of my dearest friends. Since he had served as the president of four Canadian universities and the Chairman of the Board for a fifth university, I knew that he had listened to many commencement speeches and delivered a few as well.

Over a Guinness one afternoon, I said, “George, what advice could you give me?” He paused, leaned over, and spoke softly and slowly. Here is what he said: “A commencement speaker is like a body at an Irish wake; the organizers need you for the party and don’t expect you to say much.” I intend to follow my friend’s advice and talk briefly about how my life was changed following a taxi cab ride I took more than 40 years ago.

Before recounting this story, however, I would like to preface my remarks with a few details that don’t appear in my bio or curriculum vitae. They provide a context for the important lesson I learned during my taxi cab ride. Elliott Eisner speaks of career planning as an oxymoron. Others refer to professional careers as a happenstance or just plain luck. They are right as far as I am concerned.

To these cogent observations, I would add the words spoken nearly four decades ago by one of my three sons, then 6. At the dinner table one evening, my son said, “Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a baseball player. What do you want to be when you grow down?” How prophetic that question was. Since retiring, my height has shrunk 2 inches, and I am still trying to figure out what I want to do next. My professional career certainly had a life of its own.

As a 16-year-old, I walked across the stage at Hannibal High School in Hannibal, Missouri, to receive my high school diploma. Having received first place in the state for a news story I had written for the school newspaper, which I edited, I planned to enter the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and become a reporter.

To offset my expenses, I worked one summer in a shoe factory and another summer as a Gandy Dancer, an occupation immortalized in a song titled, “The Gandy Dancers Ball.” Believe me, it was no ball. During the day we laid railroad tracks in the hot Missouri sun, drove spikes, shoveled gravel, and set railroad ties. At night we slept in boxcars on a railroad siding. The closest I came to journalism school was to marry one of its graduates, Marjorie Anne Pollock, who became the reporter in the family. Next month we celebrate our 58th wedding anniversary and a wonderful life together. That was one of the best choices of my life.

Now let me turn briefly to that fateful taxi cab ride and the lesson I learned that had a profound effect on my life. The lesson I learned concerns choices. Every choice involves a sacrifice, for oneself and for others. That statement is hardly profound; however, its consequences are. Often, we are so blinded by our wants and desires that we ignore the sacrifices inherent in the choices we make. My work in the shoe factory and later as a Gandy Dancer led me to appreciate that everyone, regardless of their station in life, has wisdom to share if you bother to listen.

Many years ago I flagged a cab in Chicago and began a conversation with the cabby. Here is what he said that influenced my life: “I wanted a nice home for my family in the city, a summer home on Lake Michigan, and a car for my wife and each of my two children. To afford these, I needed to work two full-time jobs. And, indeed, we had the nice home, the summer home on Lake Michigan and cars for everyone in the family. But my wife divorced me, and my children would have nothing to do with me. By working two jobs, I got what I wanted, but I lost what I had. What I had was more important to me than what I wanted.”

This cabby, fine man that he was, was so blinded by his desires that he failed to consider the sacrifices for his family and for himself. Sadly in my experience, this is an all-too-common mistake. Equally sad: if I had been riding with the same cabby today, I probably would not have learned this valuable lesson. Instead of listening to him, I would have been talking on my cell phone, surfing the Internet with my smart phone, texting, or tweeting.

In light of this cabby’s story, let me ask each of you in the audience and on stage two questions: 1.”What are the three or four most important things in your life?” and 2.”What sacrifices are you unwilling to make no matter what the choice or opportunity is?” These are tougher questions to answer than you might think and even more difficult to act upon. I know from my own experience.

Not too long after the cabby told me his story, I created a mental list of the things in life that meant the most to me. This list exerted a major influence over my choices for the rest of my professional career: 1. my family; 2. my students, including teaching and advising; and 3. my research and writing on practical problems, no matter how controversial they were or whether they were valued by members of the academy.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have added a fourth – my own personal health. With all due respect for my former deans: annual reports and faculty meetings did not make my list. Thanks to that cabby, I can enter the checkout line when my time comes with few regrets. I am not estranged from my four children. My wife and I like, as well as love, each other. I have students who continue to care about me as I continue to care about them. I also have several really close friends, the kind who feel comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with each other.

Strangely, the more I paid attention to the sacrifices and set aside my desire for professional recognition, the more recognition I received. At every Irish wake, it is customary to offer a toast to the body. Instead, let me offer a toast to this year’s graduates. May you experience success, enjoy your journey, and end your life with few regrets because you did not let your desires blind you to the important sacrifices inherent in your choices.

Coaching Inquiries: What helps to keep you going when life gets tough? How would you describeyour life priorities? Why have you embraced them as your own? Are you happy with them? How might they be changed to better reflect your true self, to better express your true values, and to better contribute to the wellbeing of those you love and of the world at large?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


There were no replies to last week’s Provision. I miss reading your thoughts replies. What do you think of the material in this week’s Provision? How does it move you or set you going on your own trek of life? You can reply to this email or use our online Feedback Form. Thanks!  


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #835: What’s Your Struggle?

Laser Provision

What’s your struggle? As we go about the business of everyday life, it’s easy to become discouraged by our own struggles and to overlook the struggles of others. We don’t view struggles as a gift. For better or for worse, however, they will come to us all, sooner or later. And when they come, our outlook and takeaways make all the difference in the world. Today’s Provision encourages us to view struggles as opportunities for learning and growth rather than as meaningless accidents or terrible punishments. That can be difficult, but it’s worth rising to the occasion. Read on to learn why and how.

LifeTrek Provision

It’s easy to look at the disease that has attacked my brain as a terrible, no-good affliction. On one level it is, of course, just that. Who wants to end up in a coma, almost die, and then come back with a dysfunctional memory? I can answer that question without hesitation or doubt. No one! But on another level, as I have been sharing with you through Provisions over the course of the past year, the experience has proven to be something of a gift. It has changed my character – that was inevitable – but many of the changes have been for the better. And that has come as something of a surprise.

That would not have been my guess before this all happened, even though I have always understood that there are gifts to be found in adversity. That is, in fact, the title of a good book on the subject by Norman Rosenthal. I like the subtitle as well: The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections. Those gifts are there, but we have to hold that perspective and we have to look for them if we want to find them. Rosenthal’s book is helping me to do that and I am thankful for the ways in which I am changing and growing through this experience.

Before all this happened, I did not see things in quite the same way. I thought it was better to go through life with a minimum of adversity and a maximum of ease. My mother and father raised me that way. Thanks to them, I grew up with good health and strong family ties. I also grew up with the desire to help others in need. They taught me the importance of donating money and of working to relieve the difficulties and adversities that many people live with all the time. I believe that’s a good thing to do and I would encourage you to step up to that calling and to put on that mantle as best you are able.

The experiences of the last 15 months, however, have taught me that avoiding life’s “difficulties, setbacks, and imperfections”, as Rosenthal characterizes them, is not only impossible it may also be undesirable. Such terrible experiences – as long as we survive them – can evolve into wonderful blessings that present us with unique opportunities for learning, growth, connection, and change. That has been my experience over the past year, as I have worked through my own struggles, and I expect that this will continue to be my experience, from here on out, for the rest of my life.

Struggling through difficulties and terrible experiences can do that to a person. What doesn’t kill us may not always make us stronger, but it can certainly always make us wiser. For that to happen, however, we have to embrace the possibility and explore the dimensionality of those experiences as to what they have to teach us. Instead of asking “Why me?” it is better to ask “Now what?” And that is the shift I have been striving to make through my healing process.

A friend recently told me the story of his brother who worked as a caddy at a golf course. Because his brother was relatively small, he was often passed over by the players in favor of bigger, stronger-looking caddies. But after asserting repeatedly that he was able to handle the job, one player finally consented to let him carry a full golf bag, with all the trimmings, for two rounds of golf. That’s 36 holes and a lot mileage, especially with a heavy golf bag on your shoulder.

At the end of the day, my friend’s brother was talking to the guy who shined players’ shoes at the course, the “bootblack”, who mentioned to him that he had been keeping an eye on a slot machine that stood along one of the walls. In case you do not know about slot machines, they are one of many ways to gamble. You put in a coin, pull the handle, and if the cards line up properly on the dial, you win. When they don’t line up, you lose.

“That machine hasn’t hit all day,” the bootblack observed, “I think it’s about ready to hit.” Thinking he might be able to increase his winnings for the day, my friend’s brother decided to give it a try. He turned in his earnings for coins and he started gambling. Insert coin. Pull handle. Lose money. Over and over again it went. With every pull, he said to himself, “Certainly, it’s going to hit on the next pull.” But it never did hit and he lost all the money he had earned for the day.

It was then and there that my friend’s brother made a decision. “I am leaving you,” he said, “and I am never coming back.” He gave up gambling for good, then and there, because he learned things the hard way – from a painful experience. And he ended up all the better.

My health crisis has been a much more difficult experience than losing money at a slot machine, but my friend’s story applies as much to me as it does to you and to anyone else. We all have our struggles. There’s no way to avoid them. The question is how we handle them when they come our way and how we relate to others who are struggling along their way.

I see two shifts happening in myself at this point in time. First, I am talking less about my own struggle when I engage with others. The story’s been told and it’s time to move on, even if the healing is not complete. Second, I am taking more of an interest in listening to and helping out with the struggles of others. I have always been a compassionate person, but now that compassion is more tangible, deeply-felt, and prone to move me to action. If I see someone suffering, I will go out of my way to see if there is anything I can do to help. That may not always be a wise thing to do with a complete stranger, but my intentions are honorable and it has not yet gotten me into trouble. Simply put, I want to make sure they are OK and to help if I can.

Profoundly put, I have become a more compassionate person. The Latin root meaning of the word “compassion” is to “suffer with”. Well, it’s hard to really suffer with people until one has really suffered oneself. Until August 30 of 2012, my sufferings had been rather mild. Since that time, my sufferings have been both unique and many. I don’t recommend this to anyone. But having survived, and having gotten this far, I am becoming more and more thankful for the life-lessons that are coming my way. I have become quieter, slower, as well as more humble, reflective, and interested in the sufferings of others.

So I would encourage you to look at your own struggles through that lens. There’s no point in struggling for struggling’s sake – that’s the definition of masochism. But when struggles come our way – and they will come to us all, sooner or later – the key is to handle them well and to build on them so as to make for a better life in the future. My friend’s brother learned that lesson at the golf course in relatively painless fashion. I am learning that now, even more profoundly than before, as I struggle my way back from this terrible affliction. And I would challenge you to approach and learn from your own challenges in the same way.

Coaching Inquiries: What’s your struggle? What’s your relationship to that struggle? Do you resent and reject that struggle, as though it should not be happening? Or do you accept and embrace that struggle as an opportunity for learning, growth, and change? Who could help you make the shift from one frame to another? What’s keeping you from reaching out now to make it so?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


As someone almost single-handedly keeping Walgreens profitable, I empathize with you in the struggle to recover from prescription drug addiction. And yet in many ways various drugs help me function more effectively. So…. Is this part of God’s design of creation? In any way we keep lifting you up in prayer, partially in gratitude for your faithful discipleship. Grace and peace! I hope all is well.


Thank you for your Provisions and blog, I feel like it it keeps us connected. You seem to be dealing with sadness/anger/frustration/disappointment and perhaps yearning for a sense of peace. I admire your courage and willingness to share your experience. It gives me and, I suspect, many of your followers the courage to keep moving on. I came across some interesting information on EEG’s and decreasing seizures. If you are interested, you can learn more about it in the research section at: EEGInfo.com. I pray that you continue to heal. You are in my thoughts and prayers.


Thanks for sharing so provokingly. It feels to me that God is with you wrestling against a form of evil and wounded creation rather than wrestling against you I do not know how the devil works but my experience and reading of scripture says Jesus realizes that evil spirits need to be cast out. I rejoice that you are finding so much to learn and benefit from through your illness and healing. God can bring great good out of even the worst circumstances but I don’t think God desires brokenness and dysfunction. I’m sending you lots of prayer and love.


It was good to hear your voice again in your Provision yesterday. I did not know you had returned from Mayo clinic. You may or may not remember me. We met several times at Robert’s “Beauty of the Needs” workshops, you and I did coaching and you helped my come up with my business name. So I have known you for awhile and have always appreciated your great good humor and excellent capacity for candor.


Right after you came out of your coma I left for Afghanistan to work on a military base. I have been here for 13 months now and am leaving at the end of the month. This has been an environment not that different from that of a prison. An environment that clarifies my thinking by keeping both life and death very present in awareness. Much like your seizures. I have had many, many weird experiences here as I have flown throughout the country in helicopters many times a month to different bases. Not only have I witnessed a great deal, I have also been the recipient of assault, both physical and sexual. So now it is time to go home. At the end of the month I am leaving.

What I wanted to say mostly to you was this…….our brains while very clever, smart, educated, enticing etc., yours particularly, is not our heart or our soul and perhaps these gifts of experiences we have received have served to teach us that. That is some crazy story about Jacob and what struck me was I could not understand it with my mind.

His heart and soul knew who he was with and what to ask for, a blessing straight from God. Suffering , the wound on his hip lets him and us know there is suffering involved. He saw God and recognized Him. I was so happy you ended with gratefulness and devotion, I think it is something we both have longed for in our own ways to know God and to truly love, we had no idea what we would encounter. Pretty darn amazing, my friend. Be of good courage — we will be well because we are learning how to be love. My best and much love.


I just wanted to thank you for your Provision today. This is the third time in 3 weeks someone has mentioned this passage to me so I think I need to listen! Like you, I’ve been going through some stuff but nowhere near what you’ve been experiencing. I recognize I’ve been wrestling with God over a number of long-standing issues in my life, including my faith, identity, marriage, which resulted in taking some time off work for the past 5 weeks and beginning taking antidepressant medication. I am grateful to say I think I’m beginning to come out of the ‘fog’ I’ve been in and am returning to work tomorrow, clear about some things that need to change. I continue to pray for your complete recovery – you are a blessing to many.


I like the concept of “wrestling with God” (rather than submit to and fear God as most organized religions insist) but to me the question is less does a God power exist but rather why does He/She/It insist on constantly throwing us punches and pinning us to ground until we yell uncle, or worse take away our lives, health, happiness for no apparent or logical reason. However I suppose the fact that you seem to have gained perspective and greater understanding and appreciation of life from your own wrestling experience does count for something. Thanks for your message.


It was good to hear your voice coming through so strong and clear in your last Provision. We are in Ojai, CA. 90 min north of LA and it’s a small town feeling here. My son got into a boarding school called Thacher.  Very cool, they ride horses every day, camp a lot and have a strong peer culture.

I thought of you yesterday as my husband and I did the Santa Barbara half marathon. Remembering how you and I did one together in VA. And how I was thinking I could be walk/running this and be done faster! We finished at a 10:30 pace and with you we were at 10. Hope you are well, and so glad you are recovering!


Good Provision. Sorry to hear about the rough road of conflict. I know you’ll be able to travel it. Your story about Jacob resonated with us on a couple of levels. You are always in our prayers.


Wow, now you’re a professional wrestler! You never stop reinventing yourself, do you? Sorry to hear about your mother and I appreciate the lessons you transfer to everybody about your brain disease, and your coping abilities. Big hug from here in Israel.


We greatly appreciate your prayers, kind thoughts, as well as your memories of being in Saigon. The streets here are certainly indelible. So far, the storm has not hit VN, but as with most tropical storms and typhoons, they hit the Central directly (Danang, Hue, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, etc.). It is a blessing that Saigon just gets heavy rain and moderate flooding for about 2 straight days, but loss of life and heavy damage to buildings is fortunately unusual.

This has been an especially bad year with several bad storms that have hit the Central causing much damage, but fortunately not much loss of life. We hope all is well with you and that your recovery is progressing. You remain in our prayers and hope we can see you again soon.


My beloved husband has also been dealt a nasty blow. He means the world to me. I cherish him every day and I am often amazed at how he has dealt with this so gracefully. It’s only the last 6 months that I see it’s getting to be too much for one man to take. We are seeking counseling, but so far they offer rudimentary coping skills while we need more than what we already know / do. 

I’ve literally had people suggest I leave him because he couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t work. My brother, under the guise of a lunch invitation to ‘brainstorm ideas’ came back with a letter telling me that my husband should be able to work and I should be working too – (regardless of his never caring enough to ask me what kind of work I do and what I’ve been doing or working towards for 5 years). That’s not right at this time.

I’m so stunned at times by how much we as humans are able to cope with, overcome, and rise to be inspiring others around us. In the meantime, I thank God every day for my loving husband. I thank God every day for another day. And though there are times I wonder how this could happen to such a caring, loving man – or to me – I usually just keep seeking solutions. As you surely do, too. So, in short, my reply to your last Provision: “Well said!” 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #834: Taking a Break

LifeTrek Provision

I’m taking a week off from Provisions this week for rest and relaxation. What about you? How do you rest and recover from the stresses and strains of life?

PS – If you enjoy reading Provisions, don’t forget to check out every back issue online at the LifeTrek Provision Archive. Enjoy!

May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #833: Wrestling with God

Laser Provision

Life always involves a measure of pain and suffering. From the very first moment to the time we take our leave, challenges are the name of the game. Avoiding challenges is not only impossible; it’s inadvisable. Working our way through challenges is the key to personal and spiritual growth. I know. I have been on that journey big time and, in inscrutable ways, it is changing my character. Even though the journey has been terribly hard, I have not been wrestling with something evil. I have been wrestling with God. This Provision invites you to view and approach your own challenges in much the same way.

LifeTrek Provision

Today’s Provision serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it represents my free-will offering to the nearly 15,000 people who receive my weekly reflections on the nature and meaning of life by email, on the other hand it represents my continued attempt to process, make sense of, and recover from this strange disorder that came upon my brain almost 15 months ago. Who knew that it would take this long!

And who knows how much longer my healing will take, what other treatments will yet be pursued, or how far back I will come in terms of my memory functions and other mental capacities? The answer is one and the same for all of those questions: no one knows. Not even the doctors and other experts in neuroscience. Everyone is guessing, including me, to the best of our ability and on the basis of our ever-changing experience as to what will be the right formula for me.

Simply put, we have embarked upon an adventure of discovery and wonder, with an unknown outcome. That makes it at once all the more scary and exciting. Having hung on and survived, I am now experiencing the most transformative ride of my life. Even though I am still a long ways away from where I want to be, I believe that I am going from barely surviving in a hospital bed to heartily thriving on the trek of life. And I am thankful that so many of you have been willing to share the journey with me by reading these Provisions.

There is a story in the Hebrew scriptures that speaks to the transformative nature of experiences such as the one through which I am going. It comes from the book of Genesis, chapter 32, verses 22-31, and it has become a classic rendering of what happens when someone wrestles, struggles, and tussles with God. I reprint that story here from the Good News Translation of the Hebrew scriptures:

That same night Jacob got up, took his family, and crossed the Jabbok River. After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, but he stayed behind, alone.

Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”

“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.

“What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he answered.

The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled mightily with God and with life, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.

Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. And the sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, limping because of his hip.

Although my name was not changed, that is exactly how I feel about my experience of living with Autoimmune Limbic Encephalitis. For almost 15 months I have wrestled with a stranger who was not invited and who almost took my life. It has been a tough, tough battle and it has taken every resource we could muster, in heaven and on earth, to get me to where I am today. For everyone’s sake, I wish it had never happened at all. But it did happen and it has changed me and it has given me countless opportunities to wrestle with God.

I’m not sure what your conception of God is, or if you even have a conception of God. In my case, having served as an ordained minister for 20 years before becoming an author and a coach, the notion of God is no more complicated than what you will find in the dictionary: God is the creator and sustainer of life. No one can argue with the fact that such a “Being” exists because “Life” exists. Something brought Life into being and has kept life going for almost 14 billion years.

I know that’s true because, against all odds, I woke up this morning. I know that’s true because, against all odds, I’m writing a Provision that will be read by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I know that’s true because the Universe is here and a bird just landed on the feeder outside my window. And I find it hard to believe that any of that is a total accident or coincidence.

What’s harder although not impossible for me to believe are all of the destructive forces in the Universe. It took a lot of energy to bring this Universe into being and, I suppose, that energy, whether random or willful, can be both constructive and destructive. Super Typhoon Haiyan is a tragic and sad example of just how destructive that energy can be. My heart goes out to the people in the Philippines, who have suffered so greatly, and my prayers go up for the people of Vietnam and southeast Asia, as they prepare for whatever may be coming their way. I was in Vietnam once and I have friends there. No one wants friends to suffer.

And yet there is something to be said for the things that come from wrestling with God, especially when that wrestling entails a measure of suffering. They say that suffering builds character but I would put it differently. Suffering creates and changes character. No one comes into and goes out of this world without a measure of suffering and everyone experiences at least some measure of suffering along the way. My suffering was pretty mild until August 30th of last year. Since then, it’s been pretty intense. And it is helpful to me to frame this suffering as a form of wrestling with God. Whether or not it is building my character, it is certainly changing my character. I hope and pray it is changing my character for the good.

This spiritual perspective on the trek of life means that life is not just totally random or accidental. I think of life as a gift, even when it’s hard and even when we are being dragged through the pits. As long as it doesn’t kill us – and, in the end, it will kill us all – life has a way of teaching us valuable lessons that can open eyes, soften hearts, heal wounds, and transform souls. That’s what happens when we wrestle with God and, as painful and as challenging as it may be, that wrestling is the key to the Universe itself. There’s no other way to get from here to there so I invite you to lift up your hearts, give thanks, and sing.

Coaching Inquiries: In what ways have you wrestled with God? How has that wrestling changed you? What has helped you to stay in the ring? In what ways has it stayed with you and informed your perspective on life? Where do you see the Universe taking you now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Thank you for your Provision on Healthy Habits. I plan to print it and share it with my staff. You are a gift in my life.


I love this compendium! It was not only helpful and handy, it also made me smile because I can check off most of those boxes on most days. Authentic Happiness indeed!


Hope you are succeeding in being happy lately. This list can certainly help us all.


After reading your Provision, I was struck this week by how happiness & doing what is good for ourselves & those around us are so closely linked. (Helping others, getting exercise, enough sleep, etc.). About a year ago I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters & I have been counting gifts ever since. I’ve noticed a definite difference in my mood as a result. I now look for little (& big) things to be delighted by, and I never fail to find them even on a “bad” day. It amazes me how such a simple shift in focus yields such great rewards & contentment. Thanks for the reminder! We just moved to a new city and I have been overwhelmed at all that entails, so I needed this reminder. Thanks again.


Thanks for reprinting the happiness column from the HP. I’m sure that for each of the 21 points made, you’ve found a way to make them happen in your life. That would have been a different and interesting way to “reprint” the message. Given your prompt, that’s the way I’m reflecting on each one: examining the extent to which I’ve structured my own life to determine the degree to which I’ve put into place elements from each factor. It’s refreshing to do this review from time to time. Thanks.


As a wellness coach, specializing in helping people lose weight, I see the happiness issue as a big one. Just last week I had my clients list 20 things that make them happy. (This was actually difficult for some of them!) People did find that scarfing down chocolate chip cookies was not on the list. Overeating was not on the list. What makes us personally happy? People should reread your wonderful Provision #832 and take the time to make their own list. Don’t stop at 20. As the article suggests, enjoy the little things in life. As an example, I get happiness from watching the sky, the clouds, the birds, a warm house, a hot shower, my zippy new car (as well as my 21-year-old car before my new one.) The list can go on and on! If you are not a naturally happy person, take time to make your list. I love your Provisions. Keep the good advice coming!


You might take this as a Debbie Downer kind of comment, but what the heck. I found most of your last Provision to be very helpful and it made me smile, many times. That said, as the wife of a man who is chronically ill and suffering from its debilitating effects on his entire life, I have to say something to say in response to this morning’s Provision. There is a constant attempt to find the positive, feel something happy, give when we can, and seek the good – but the overwhelming weight of chronic illness is sometimes too great to bear.

That is when turning to friends or family should be a lift. Too often, however, people turn their backs on friends and family who might be depressed when faced with this kind of extended and incurable illness – the kind that leads to a loss of normal daily activities such as work, exercise, and the simple ability to leave the house. Instead of throwing out a lifeline of emotional support to loved ones they make things harder.

People are hypocrites when they throw their dollars to charities, to help strangers, and then turn their back on their family and friends. That’s just hurtful. Debbie Downer on a dark day. Tomorrow will be better. Today might be too.


Happiness is good, as far as it goes. But I would choose deep and lasting peace over happiness every time. Our post-modern American obsession with finding happiness may well be at the root of the pervasive malaise of our time. Thank God that the truly great people among us don’t waste their time pursuing happiness. Consider Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa. Chasing after happiness wasn’t on their agendas, and we can all be glad it wasn’t. Peace, mercy, justice, communion with God and all creation. These things beat happiness hands down. 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #832: Happy Habits

Laser Provision

What makes for a healthy and happy person? You can either click through to read Kate Bratskeir’s summary of psychologist Marty Seligman’s work in the Huffington Post, replete with delightful pictures, or you can read this Provision, as I reprint her essay, without pictures, regarding the importance of having good times, engaging work, and a meaningful life. I’ve been writing for years about the importance of these three elements and I think you will find her reflections to be just as engaging, challenging, and uplifting as my own. Let me know what you think, once you get through to the end.

LifeTrek Provision

LifeTrek Provisions has often made reference to and cited from the work of Martin Seligman, based at the University of Pennsylvania, a man who is often hailed as the father of positive psychology. Last month, The Huffington Post summarized some of his work in a delightful essay titled “The Habits of Supremely Happy People“. I’m reprinting that essay, by Kate Bratskeir, for today’s Provision and I encourage you to take the article’s advice to heart. The advice is not hard to understand but it sure can be a challenge to put into practice. So let’s get started today if we hope to optimize the trek of life.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that while 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us.

In his 2004 TED Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”

After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.

And while it might sound like a big feat to to tackle great concepts like meaning and engagement (pleasure sounded much more doable), happy people have habits you can introduce into your everyday life that may add to the bigger picture of bliss. Joyful folk have certain inclinations that add to their pursuit of meaning — and motivate them along the way.

They Surround Themselves with Other Happy People
Joy is contagious. Researchers of the Framingham Heart Study who investigated the spread of happiness over 20 years found that those who are surrounded by happy people “are more likely to become happy in the future.” This is reason enough to dump the Debbie Downers and spend more time with uplifting people.

They Smile When They Mean It
Even if you’re not feeling so chipper, cultivating a happy thought – and then smiling about it – could up your happiness levels and make you more productive, according to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal. It’s important to be genuine with your grin: The study revealed that faking a smile while experiencing negative emotions could actually worsen your mood.

They Cultivate Resilience
According to psychologist Peter Kramer, resilience, not happiness, is the opposite of depression: Happy people know how to bounce back from failure. Resilience is like a padding for the inevitable hardship human beings are bound to face. As the Japanese proverb goes, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

They Try to be Happy
Yep – it’s as simple as it sounds: just trying to be happy can boost your emotional well-being, according to two studies recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Those who actively tried to feel happier in the studies reported the highest level of positive moods, making a case for thinking yourself happy.

They are Mindful of the Good
It’s important to celebrate great, hard-earned accomplishments, but happy people give attention to their smaller victories, too. “When we take time to notice the things that go right – it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day,” And as Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. told The Huffington Post in May. “That can help with our moods.” And, as Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D. explains, being mindful of the things that do go your way (even something as simple as the barista getting your coffee order right) can make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment throughout the day.

They Appreciate Simple Pleasures
Like a meticulously swirled ice cream cone or a boundlessly waggy dog. Happy people take the time to appreciate these easy-to-come-by pleasures. Finding meaning in the little things, and practicing gratitude for all that you do have is associated with a sense of overall gladness.

They Devote Some of their Time to Giving
Even though there are only 24 hours in a day, positive people fill some of that time doing good for others, which in return, does some good for the do-gooders themselves. A long-term research project called Americans’ Changing Lives found a bevy of benefits associated with altruism: “Volunteer work was good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression,” reported Peggy Thoits, the leader of one of the studies.

Givers also experience what researchers call “the helper’s high,” a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts. “This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high,” writes Christine L. Carter, Ph.D., “The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.”

They Let Themselves Lose Track of Time – And Sometimes They Can’t Help It
When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.” Happy people seek this sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away,” which diminishes self-consciousness and promotes the feelings associated with success. As explained by Pursuit-of-Happiness.org, “In order for a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success.”

They Nix the Small Talk for Deeper Conversation
Nothing wrong with shootin’ the you-know-what every now and then, but sitting down to talk about what makes you tick is a prime practice for feeling good about life. A study published in Psychological Science found that those who take part in more substantive conversation and less trivial chit-chat experienced more feelings of satisfaction.

“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings,” is one of the top five regrets of the dying – a sentiment that hints at the fact that people wish they’d spent less time talking about the weather and more time delving into what it is that makes their heart swell.

They Spend Money on Other People
Maybe money does buy happiness. A study published in Science found that spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.

They Make a Point to Listen
“When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts,” writes David Mezzapelle, author ofContagious Optimism. “You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself thus radiating positive energy.” Good listening is a skill that strengthens relationships and leads to more satisfying experiences. A good listener may walk away from a conversation feeling as if their presence served a purpose, an experience that is closely connected with increased well-being.

They Uphold In-Person Connections
It’s quick and convenient to text, FaceTime and tweet at your buddies. But spending the money on a flight to see your favorite person across the country has weight when it comes to your well-being. “There’s a deep need to have a sense of belonging that comes with having personal interactions with friends,” says John Cacioppo, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Social media, while it keeps us in touch, doesn’t allow us to physically touch, which harvests the warm-and-fuzzies and even decreases feelings of anxiety.

They Look on the Bright Side
Optimism touts plenty of health benefits, including less stress, a better tolerance for pain and, as HuffPost Healthy Living recently reported, longevity among those with heart disease. When you choose to see the silver lining, you’re also choosing health and happiness.

Seligman summed up perhaps the greatest characteristic of the optimist in one of his most acclaimed books, Learned Optimism: “The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.

They Value Listening to a Good Music Mix
Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages. Choosing the right tunes could be an important factor, however, as a happy or sad song can also affect the way we perceive the world. In one experiment where researchers asked subjects to identify happy or sad faces while listening to music, the participants were more likely to see the faces that matched the “mood” of the music.

They Unplug
Whether by meditating, taking a few deep breaths away from the screen or deliberately disconnecting from electronics, unplugging from our hyper-connected world has proven advantages when it comes to happiness. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue. Technology isn’t going away, but partaking in some kind of a digital detox gives your brain the opportunity to recharge and recover, which — bonus — could increase your resilience.

They Get Spiritual
Studies point to a link between religious and spiritual practice and mirth. For one, happiness habits like expressing gratitude, compassion and charity are generally promoted in most spiritual conventions. And, asking the big questions helps to give our lives context and meaning. A 2009 study found that children who felt their lives had a purpose (which was promoted by a spiritual connection) were happier.

Spirituality offers what the 20th-century sociologist Emile Durkheim referred to as “sacred time,” which is a built-in, unplugging ritual that elicits moments of reflection and calm. As Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., writes in “The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices:

“The experience of sacred time provides a time apart from the ‘profane time’ that we live most of our lives in. A daily period of meditation, a weekly practice of lighting Sabbath candles, or attending worship services, or an annual retreat in an isolated, quiet place of solitude all of these are examples of setting time apart from the rush of our everyday lives. Periods of rest and respite from work and the demands of daily life serve to reduce stress, a fundamental cause of chronic diseases that is still the primary causes of death in Western society. Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are ‘built in,’ so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living.”

They Make Exercise a Priority
A wise, albeit fictional Harvard Law School student once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more. One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise improved how people felt about their bodies — even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements.

They Go Outside
Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” And while most of us like our coffee hot, we may prefer our serving of the great outdoors at a more lukewarm temperature: A study on weather and individual happiness unveiled 57 degrees to be the optimal temperature for optimal happiness.

They Spend Time on the Pillow
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed isn’t just a myth. When you’re running low on zzs, you’re prone to experience lack of clarity, bad moods and poor judgment. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety,” Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told Health.com. “You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”

They Laugh Out Loud
You’ve heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. In the case of The Blues, this may hold some truth. A good, old-fashioned chuckle releases happy brain chemicals that, other than providing the exuberant buzz we seek, make humans better equipped to tolerate both pain and stress.

And you might be able to get away with counting a joke-swapping session as a workout (maybe). “The body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise,” explained Dr. Lee Berk, the lead researcher of a 2010 study focused on laughter’s effects on the body. The same study found that some of the benefits associated with working out, like a healthy immune system, controlled appetite and improved cholesterol can also be achieved through laughter.

They Walk the Walk
Ever notice your joyful friends have a certain spring in the step? It’s all about the stride, according to research conducted by Sara Snodgrass, a psychologist from Florida Atlantic University.

In the experiment, Snodgrass asked participants to take a three-minute walk. Half of the walkers were told to take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. These walkers reported feeling happier after the stroll than the other group, who took short, shuffled steps as they watched their feet.

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to stay hopeful? What reminds you to step back, open your heart, give thanks, and sing? Who can you count on even – and, perhaps, especially – when the times get tough? How can you deepen and cultivate more of those relationships so that you can be carried through turbulent and stormy times? What is one step you could take in that direction today?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Unfortunately, we did not receive a single reply to last week’s Provision. Not even the two most common, one-word replies: “Thanks” and “Remove”. Let’s not repeat that this week!

What do you think of Kate Bratskeir’s essay? Does it move you? Did you ever find yourself nodding in agreement or wonder? Were you ever shaking your head in disagreement or boredom? Inquiring minds as well as attentive readers want to know.

We send out Provisions every week, to almost 15,000 people in more than 150 countries around the globe, and people have commented that the Reader’s Forum is often read first and enjoyed most. So join the conversation! What do you think of Kate Bratskeir’s essay? Let me know and I will reprint your thoughts in next week’s Provision. Thanks! 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #831: Seized by Life

Laser Provision

Today’s Provision reprints the sermon that I am preaching today at the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist congregation in Williamsburg, Virginia. The message is simple and true: although horrific, my experience has brought me closer to the spirit of life itself. By stepping back, opening my heart, and holding onto hope, I have grown spiritually and have been able to exercise a positive influence on many people. I hope this Provision represents exerts such an influence on you.

LifeTrek Provision

I’m curious as to how many of you were present the last time I preached here, on May 27th of last year? That was Memorial Day weekend and the title as well as the theme of my sermon was “Passing On, Passing Away”. I was reflecting on the threshold of death, appropriately enough for Memorial Day weekend, yet I was reflecting quite personally since I had been brought close to that threshold in February after maintaining the vigil of waiting, along with the rest of my family, as my then 87-year-old mother lived out her final days in the hospital. She died on Valentine’s Day – the same day that her beloved sister, Norma, was born and then also died, a short 21 years later.

Now I stand before you again, preaching my way through another set of reflections on that very same threshold. Only this time I have been the one standing, indeed, teetering on the brink of life and death. If anyone had told me when I was standing before you last May that only 3 months later I would be the one teetering on that brink, I would have scratched my head in bewilderment and disbelief. After all, I was on top of the world:

I ran a successful business that had me traveling the world, along with Megan, giving talks and facilitating workshops. I was a strong and fit marathon runner, who enjoyed the challenge of long-distance running. I was a health nut who had coached many people through the challenging process of moving from being overweight or obese to reaching their optimal weight. I sent out a weekly email newsletter to almost 15,000 people around the world. I was even the resident handy-man at home, a jack of all trades with a collection of tools to match. “Game on” would have been the way I would have described my life.

Then, like a house of cards, it all came crashing down. Within a matter of weeks of that sermon, I was literally walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” – a metaphor that you may recognize as coming from one of the most famous of all Hebrew psalms, Psalm 23. You may not remember that I included Psalm 23 in that Memorial Day worship service. In my case, I went so deep into that valley – I was teetering so close to the edge – that I had to be flown in a helicopter from Riverside, where my hospital care had begun, to the UVA Hospital in Charlottesville, where a different course of treatment could be administered.

There were many days during that period of time when it was not clear whether or not I would survive; there have been many more days, up to and including the present moment, when it has not been clear as to how much of my memory functions I would recover and how fully capable I would become with regard to handling the daily tasks of life. When waking me up from the coma, they made it quite clear to my family – based on the MRI scans of my brain showing various areas of inflammation– that I would likely have significant problems with memory and that I would also be quite emotional. But they couldn’t keep me in a coma forever, so they brought me gradually out of the ether. And here I stand today.

If you believe in miracles, you’re looking at one. Medical science alone cannot explain or take credit for my recovery. That said, credit can also not be assigned solely to the inexplicable zigzags of life, the prayers of my family, the determination of my spirit, or the mysterious ways of God. It took all five – medicine, serendipities, prayers, determination, and God – to pull me through. They have all been working hand in hand and I have appreciated how much doctors and others in the medical community seem to recognize the importance of that convergences.

Those who work in the medical profession have seen so many highs and lows, so many miracles and tragedies, that they have seemingly come to accept their role as facilitators of a process that is, to some extent, outside of their control. We do the best we can with what we have, then we step back, open our hearts, and hope for the best.

That might well be as good a description as I can come up with for prayer: stepping back, opening our hearts, and hoping for the best. I invite you to reflect on each of these with me in turn:

Stepping Back. Isn’t that what David Whyte was wrestling with in the beautiful poem that I read from the UVA hospital and that I have more or less committed to memory, over the course of many years? There is a small opening into the new day, David muses, which closes the moment we begin our plans. Which closes the moment we get busy. Which closes the moment we forget to live wholeheartedly or fail live with the vitality hidden in our sleep.

There’s no way to pray deeply without stepping back from the busy-busy hubbub of life. In the midst of the storm, juggling, as we do, so many different pressures, plans, and priorities, we can end up living halfheartedly. We can end up living as a troubled guest on this earth. We can end up thinking of ourselves as just another accident amidst all the other accidents across the grand sweep of time. But that’s just not true.

There is, I believe, a unique reason that each and every one of us was called into being. And it is our task, during our time on this earth, to find that reason – a reason that is best found in the sound of silence. That’s because, like a seed, the reason for our being can lie dormant for many moons. During that time of dormancy, it can appear dead, as I did in the hospital. You don’t get much deader than I got without being dead. I had no reflexes in my entire body other than having the pupil of one but not both of my eyes responding to a bright light. I did not react to painful or noxious stimuli. It was seemingly hopeless.

When the doctors conferenced with my family to prepare them for what might not be a happy ending, my daughter, who is a brilliant medical doctor, said, “No way! Don’t you give up on my Dad. He’s still in there!” And she was right. I wasn’t gone; I was just stepping back. Granted, I took a really big step back…a very long step back. I took such a gigantic step back that I even stopped getting email (other than spam)! But I wasn’t dead. I just went on a retreat; I just took a very long sabbatical. I cleared my calendar in order to find that mountain presence of everything that can be. And what I found can only be found with the heart.

Opening our Hearts. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that we attribute a form of intelligence to the heart? I mean, on the one hand, the heart can be viewed mechanically. It’s a pump the function of which is to circulate blood throughout the body. The brain processes information; the heart pumps blood. That’s a pretty clear division of labor. The brain even controls the heart, or so we think.

But if so, then, why, when we feel things deeply, do we feel them right here – with our heart? And why, then, when athletes and others want to rouse their spirits, do they sometimes beat their chests right here – above their heart? And why, then, when people experience deep losses, do we speak of something breaking right here – in our heart?

It’s because our intelligence is not confined to our brains. New research is confirming the old wisdom that intelligence is a whole-body experience and that our hearts have an important role to play when it comes to deep ways of knowing. Closed hearts stop processing the very information that they are designed to process and are limited greatly as to the range of their capacities. Open hearts, on the other hand, literally know no bounds.

To get a sense of how this works, I’d like us to sing hymn number 336 in the UUA hymnal, “All My Memories of Love”. Although the lyrics don’t mention the heart until the third verse, I’d invite you to sing this song with recognition that, in many respects, the whole song is about hanging our graceful hearts upon the tree of love.

Memories may hang upon the stars, the song proclaims, and willows may touch the waters clear, but it is the heart that makes things graceful and free. And it’s not just any heart that does that, but your heart and my heart and every heart that is open and free. So please turn to hymn number 336, and let’s stay seated so that we can take in the words and sing from the heart as our pianist works her way through a song in D major, with five flats. May God help us all! ☺

SING HYMN #336 IN “SINGING the LIVING TRADITION”

So, with a little reflection and a little help from that song, we’ve stepped back from the pressures of life and we’ve opened up our hearts in this thing called prayer, but that’s not enough to get us through to the journey’s end. For that miracle to happen, for us to be truly and fully seized by life, we also have to infuse life with hope. Life without hope is a life without dreams and a life without dreams is no life at all. I know. I’ve been there and done that. And it’s better the other way around.

Hoping for the Best. The last lines of this hymn really bring this home. “Many are the graceful hearts hung upon the branches of the Willow trees in September, which touch the waters clear. And it seems that there’s room for my heart on those branches free and that the sky above the tree, whether wet or bright, is my ease and comforting, my good news and light.”

What a powerful promise to hold onto and what a powerful message to sing together: there’s a place for each and every one of us on the branches of that proverbial tree and, once we find our place there and once we look at the beautiful sky above, we will indeed experience ease and comforting, good news and light.

That’s what my family and I have been yearning and hoping for throughout my healing process and that’s even been what we’ve been experiencing – sometimes more often and sometimes less often – as time has gone on: ease and comforting, good news and light. We all want those things, of course, but there’s no way to make them come to us on the demand. We can, however, invite them to make an appearance.

And that’s what happens when we are seized by life. We go looking for those things with not only a spirit of openness but also with the confidence that our search is not being embarked upon in vain. We go looking, in other words, with the thought that something wonderful can and will happen. We go looking in hope.

When I first went into the hospital I was in and out of consciousness, no one really knew what was going on, and everyone was very scared. Even though I don’t remember this, I can vouch for the fact that my family and friends rallied, came together, and pulled me through. Without them, and without all of you, I would not be here today.

On day 4 of that ordeal, here’s what Megan wrote in the diary she kept for me,

On Sunday morning, after starting the day with a seizure, Bob was sad, silent, perplexed, and scared. As the day progressed, with no more seizures, Bob got to talking and remembering a little bit more. When Bryn called from the airport in the afternoon to tell him that she was on the way, Bob told her “We’ve got to stay hopeful.”

That turned out to be one of the last coherent things that Bob said, but we have clung to that affirmation throughout these scary, anxious times. By evening, and throughout the night, Bob had more seizures and with each one we lost a little more of him. No one knows where this will go, but we’ve got to stay hopeful.

Indeed, hope and prayer go hand in hand. They may even be one and the same. Hoping for the best is itself a form of prayer. And praying for the best is itself a form of hope. There’s no way to have one without the other; the two always go hand in hand.

Stepping back, opening our hearts, and hoping for the best: those three abide. But the greatest is hope. And the hinge of hope is love. Without the love of my family and friends, especially my immediate family and my closest friends, I would have no hope and I would be dead. That’s both a humbling and a joyous recognition for which I cannot express enough gratitude and I can only hope to live into the full measure of its calling. Thanks be to God.

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to stay hopeful? What reminds you to step back, open your heart, give thanks, and sing? Who can you count on even – and, perhaps, especially – when the times get tough? How can you deepen and cultivate more of those relationships so that you can be carried through turbulent and stormy times? What is one step you could take in that direction today?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I enjoy following Bob’s weekly “column”. Actually, it’s pretty amazing stuff.


Your spirit, the light in you, flows directly into accepting hearts. Your voice, not only the one I hear but the one I read, is a conduit.


I, for one, am grateful that you are carrying on and writing these provisions – your ‘movement of grains on the hillside’ are an enjoyable & inspirational piece of my Sunday morning. Thank you! Many blessings to you as you continue to carry on with life in such an optimistic, hopeful & inspirational way.


Your last Provision was perfectly amazing!


I have never met you personally, but feel that I know you (like many others, I’m sure) through your writing. Thanks for the messages of hope each week. I had a life-threatening illness and underwent a time of chemotherapy and some medication-related depression and loss of energy for almost a year. Nothing like what you’re going through, but your sharing your own journey makes a difference to a lot of us.


You have certainly been in my prayers, and all of us at First Church here in Columbus were praying for you. I’m inspired and awe-struck by your recovery, and by your gracious, joyous spirit in the face of such a catastrophe.

My grandson, Gabriel, is two-years-old and he soaks up words and phrases from everywhere like a sponge. In the last two weeks, Gabe’s newest exclamation is: “That’s amazing!” Show him a pumpkin partly hidden in the plant’s green foliage and his response is, “That’s amazing!” Give him a toy that pops out a foam ball when a button is pushed. “That’s amazing!”

Of course, what makes the phrase memorable is when Gabe delivers it in that excited little two-year-old voice with a giggle and a slight smile. He knows he’s cute.

Your latest Provision reminds us how “amazing” life is. As grandfathers, you and I have a new perspective on little children. Indeed, they are amazing. 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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